1. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Summary: Chinua Achebe's first novel portrays the collision of African and European cultures in people's lives. Okonkwo, a great man in Igbo traditional society, cannot adapt to the profound changes brought about by British colonial rule. Yet, as in classic tragedy, Okonkwo's downfall results from his own character as well as from external forces.
Genre: African literature
Thoughts: I really enjoyed this story. The last time I read African literature within colonialism was during my Bachelor's. Achebe has a very lyrical beautiful way if writing. The character of Okonkwo reminds me a bit of Wang Lung in The Good Earth. He isn't a very likable character, IMHO. his eldest son and eldest daughter are by far the most sympathetic of the characters. Still a very very interesting, especially the way Achebe connects Okonkwo's own downfall with the tribe. He does an excellent job of keeping the story character-driven but still providing commentary on colonialism and tribal life.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
2. The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons
Summary: Leningrad 1941: the white nights of summer illuminate a city of fallen grandeur whose palaces and avenues speak of a different age, when Leningrad was known as St Petersburg. Two sisters, Tatiana and Dasha, share the same bed, living in one room with their brother and parents. The routine of their hard impoverished life is shattered on 22 June 1941 when Hitler invades Russia. For the Metanov family, for Leningrad and particularly for Tatiana, life will never be the same again. On that fateful day, Tatiana meets a brash young man named Alexander. The family suffers as Hitler's army advances on Leningrad, and the Russian winter closes in. With bombs falling and the city under siege, Tatiana and Alexander are drawn inexorably to each other, but theirs is a love that could tear Tatiana's family apart, and at its heart lies a secret that could mean death to anyone who hears it. Confronted on the one hand by Hitler's vast war machine, and on the other by a Soviet system determined to crush the human spirit, Tatiana and Alexander are pitted against the very tide of history, at a turning point in the century that made the modern world.
Genre: Romance, Epic, World War II
Thoughts: I love this story. I must warn anyone who hasn't read this you need a tissue box. Epic is a fantastic way to describe this. At first glance you think it's going to be a standard "girly-book" like my brother would say. But it's sooooo much more. I still cannot get the images of starvation, and the cannibals in the streets out of my head. LOVE IT! It is very bittersweet and even though I cannot wait to read the other two in the series I needed to take a break from all the heartache. Tatiana and Alexander are great together but there is sooo much more than than just a love story. Simons doesn't shy away from reality of the WWII. There's no sugar-coating or glossing over.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
3. Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire
Summary: Ten years after the publication of Wicked, beloved novelist Gregory Maguire returns at last to the land of Oz. There he introduces us to Liir, an adolescent boy last seen hiding in the shadows of the castle after Dorothy did in the Witch. Bruised, comatose, and left for dead in a gully, Liir is shattered in spirit as well as in form. But he is tended at the Cloister of Saint Glinda by the silent novice called Candle, who wills him back to life with her musical gifts.
What dark force left Liir in this condition? Is he really Elphaba's son? He has her broom and her cape -- but what of her powers? Can he find his supposed half-sister, Nor, last seen in the forbidding prison, Southstairs? Can he fulfill the last wishes of a dying princess? In an Oz that, since the Wizard's departure, is under new and dangerous management, can Liir keep his head down long enough to grow up?
Genre: Fairy tale retelling, Sequel
Thoughts: O.K. I wasn't the biggest Wicked the book fan. I think it mostly had to do with my preconceived notions of what I expected the book to be and what it actually was. I enjoyed this book so so much more. I like Liir. Interesting character. I also like how Maguire doesn't 100% clear up Liir's parentage. The vagueness works remarkably well. Also the idea of Elphaba in this book is, for me, more interesting than the way that Maguire describes her in the first book. The ending...
Are we supposed to infer that the baby is in fact Liir's because she's green? My memory of the first book is shoddy? But doesn't Melena (I think that's her name) have an affair with someone else and isn't the implication that Elphaba's father is that guy? And that may be why she's green?
When it said that the girl was green the first thought that I had was Candle slept with that same type of guy and she isn't Liir's. What does everyone else think?
Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
A good start to the new year.